China hospital says baby's kidneys successfully transplanted in woman

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Doctors in central China's Hubei province said they have successfully transplanted kidneys from a prematurely born donor baby in the body of a 47-year-old woman who was suffering from kidney failure.

The donor weighed only 1.3kg, Wuhan Union Hospital said on Wednesday (July 10), calling the baby the lightest kidney donor ever reported.

The woman, surnamed Wang, from Duchang county, Jiangxi province, was diagnosed with uremia in June last year and the transplant was performed a month later.

Without the transplant, Ms Wang would have had to receive blood dialysis for the rest of her life in order to survive.

The kidneys used in the surgery were from a premature baby, whose parents decided to donate the organs after the infant died, the hospital said.

Following a year of follow-up treatment, the baby's kidneys, which were between 3cm and 4cm long before the transplant, have grown to 6.9 cm and 7.6 cm in the patient's body, closer to the usual size of 10 cm for an adult.

The two kidneys are functioning normally and Ms Wang has recovered, the hospital said.

Transplant operations using kidneys donated by infants are very difficult compared with kidneys donated by adults. Generally, infants that weigh less than 5kg are not considered abroad as sources of organs for transplants, the hospital said.

Dr Wang Zhendi, a transplant surgeon in the hospital and the woman's doctor, said the blood vessels and ureter, a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the urinary bladder, are very thin in infants' kidneys. This makes precision surgery very difficult, with higher chances of post-surgery complications. It is also more difficult for such kidneys to function in an adult's body as they are not fully developed.

"The less the weight of the donor, the slower the kidney recovers its functions in the body where it is transplanted," he said.

Although an adult can survive with just one kidney, usually two kidneys are transplanted from an infant to improve the chances of a healthy outcome, he said.

The success of the surgery means sources for kidney transplants can be expanded to include infant donors. This will ease the gap between the number of organs donated and the number of patients with terminal kidney disease waiting for transplant in China, the hospital said.

In Wuhan Union Hospital alone, more than 500 registered patients with kidney failure are waiting for suitable organs for transplantation, the hospital said.